Los Angeles has become one of the nation’s hotbeds for the coronavirus. In the past two weeks, over 900 workers have been infected with COVID-19 across 11 Target locations, eight Costcos, nine Home Depots and six Amazon stores and warehouses in the county, according to data from the health department as of Wednesday.
Concern has mounted over the spread of the virus at retail locations and warehouses following the rush of holiday shopping. A spike in cases in LA County has also created created more opportunities for workplace transmission.
Several factors contribute to the spread of the virus in retail stores, including a high-density environment, prolonged close contact with coworkers, reliance on public transportation, the need to hold multiple jobs, and frequent community contact among workers, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Los Angeles County’s chief medical officer said in a press conference Sunday the surge of cases in the area has put even more pressure on essential workers.
“If you had a workplace before where you had 500 workers, there might be one person who was infected, so the risk of transmitting it to a lot of people was lower,” Gunzenhauser said. “But now, with the prevalence of infection at 1% or higher, if they have 500 employees, maybe five are infected. And it magnifies the chances it can spread in the workplace.”
The county has recorded a 905% increase in its weekly average of positive cases since November 1 — a number health officials say is “likely to go up.”
Companies have implemented efforts since the onset of the pandemic to maintain employees’ safety while also keeping stores open. Target, Costco, Home Depot and Amazon are following CDC recommendations and have increased protocols for cleanliness and social distancing through providing masks, gloves and health checks, as well as installing partitions at check-out lanes.
Several fast food restaurants in the area have also reported outbreaks, among them Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, and In-N-Out Burger. There have been over 150 cases attributed to several locations across the county, including five Chick-Fil-A’s, six McDonald’s, and two In-N-Out’s.
Flare-ups at retail stores, restaurants, and warehouses have prompted various states to prioritize essential workers in the vaccine roll-out. The CDC recommends retail and food workers be included in early phases of vaccine distribution, following healthcare personnel and long-term-care residents and staff.
While the California Health Department has determined frontline health care workers, as well as nursing home residents and staff will be the first in the state to receive the vaccine, there has not been any clear consensus yet who will come next, though the department has largely agreed to follow CDC guidelines.
Representatives from Target, Costco, Amazon and Home Depot did not immediately respond to a request for comment… Business Insider